Talking science and science policy again

Starting off with the politics.

Tangentially related to space, a solar panel factory in Wrexham, currently supporting 750 jobs, is to expand, creating some new jobs and a training academy. Meanwhile planned changes to the Maths A-level have been criticised as making them harder may put people off. Employers and universities have been complaining about grade inflation making it impossible to differentiate between high scoring students, but some have found ways of using the modular approach to A-levels to give an insight into development through looking at the interim exams. Critics say this would be lost and people would be put off if the A-level returned to an end course exam structure.

NASA has been told not to cancel any contracts associated with the Constellation project in case the various components, especially the Orion capsule, have a chance of being used in future projects. The orders were inserted in provisions for a bill funding the war in Afghanistan and demanded that funds allocated to contracts related to Constellation, which was felled by an overall lack of funding, be retained for their original purpose. The idea is to stop anything getting cancelled that might determine which of the various plans being debated for the future of human spaceflight with NASA can plausibly go ahead. The $18 billion allocation to NASA in the provision has been unfavourably compared to the $20 billion set aside for air conditioning units in tents for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Incidentally, the paths for human spaceflight have their various lobbies forming. Elon Musk of the private rocket company SpaceX has been complaining far and wide about one version of the plan that would put five times as much money into paying Soyuz to launch NASA astronauts as it would put into developing a home grown private space industry. This plan is the present form of the NASA reauthorisation bill that made it through a Senate committee with bipartisan support. Eventually. The bill must now make it through various stages of government, but support inside Washington doesn’t mean support outside of it as the private rocketeers fight for their funds.

Musk hopes to harness the growing power of the science blogging community, but what motivates the science community to blog? Here’s a discussion of science writing origins by science writers themselves to get a feel of why. Might add in my own later. Might not.

Writing isn’t all they do in this multimedia age. Here’s a video with science blogger (and occasionally professor at UCL, CERN researcher et al) Jon Butterworth and others on the Guardian’s site, discussing the recent ICHEP2010 conference.

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